Saturday, July 21, 2012

Steam Sales And Civilization 5, Oh Snap

Well kids, papa's in the house and he's bringing Steam games...  I recently bought Bang Bang Racing, Sonic Generations, Binary Domain, Renegade Ops, Counter-Strike Source, Garry's Mod, and...Civilization Five.  All of these cost me less than $15 except for Civ 5 which cost $30 for the GotY and Gods and Kings expansion but that's okay!  It's worth it.

I don't want to go into too much detail about Civilization but the premise is you control your own civilization from ancient times to the present as you build cities, discover new technologies, and ravage enemy forces.  The game's turn-based (like Advance Wars) as you play versus multiple civilizations at once (either AI or human players) and can either work together, isolate from each other, or obviously wage war.  No matter how you play, there can only be one "winner" thanks to multiple win conditions.  And since the world is randomized each time and fog covers all the unexplored parts of the map, it's interesting to see how each game folds out.

Here I am, I'm Egypt.  I never started war with anyone (peace through strength) but when the Incans and Arabians started getting testy, I whooped their asses and they backed off.  What "country" you pick really doesn't matter although each has their own few different units and abilities.  For instance, Egypt has chariot archers, Rome has centurions, Japan has samurais, USA has minutemen, etc.  Otherwise, many of the gameplay elements are practically the same between every player.


All of a sudden, while playing this game, I came to the realization this game is a metaphor for real life.  Well, what do I mean?  Each "country" is its own person.  Technically, since all the things you see on the screen are aspects of yourself and are under your control, hence you yourself ARE your own civilization.  The goal is to better one's life through many improvements that you do in the game:

1. Expand, build farms, provide resources, create new cities, meet new people, glance into the unknown.
2. Discover science, accrue knowledge, learn new things, improve one's current situation.
3. Create culture, engage in the creative process, learn about music, art, other cultures, faith in God, happiness, etc.
4. Diplomacy, make friends, work together, pick and choose what you want others to know, etc.
5. Go to war, defend yourself, take what you want, compete with others.
6. Make lots and lots and lots of money.

Look at it this way.  In Civ, you can only spend so much energy each "turn" on certain things.  You can choose to pimp out one of the six things above.  If you invest heavily on expansion, then you sacrifice your military.  Or you build your military, then that's money wasted on expansion.  Or if you go science, your culture drops and you feel miserable.  Or you can go culture but fall behind in the tech wars.  You can spend a lot of money making friends or keep to yourself.  Either way, it makes you think "Did I just pick the right thing?"  This happens all the time in strategy games--you either win or fail by a few simple choices.

Think about this--what is your daily routine like?  What do you do and how does it help and/or hurt?  Like here's some examples:

1. Go to sleep, but for how long?  Is it worth staying up/sleeping late?
2. What do I eat?  Do I eat at home, do I go pick up something elsewhere, or do I seek out other people to go eat with?
3. What do I do at school?  Do I work on Super Sprint?  Battle Fortress Tortoise?  My regular homework?  Or do I do nothing?  What's the pros and cons of each?  How much work can I get done on any of these right now?
4. Who do I talk to at school?  What do I say?  What is my mood like?
5. Play a video game?  Well, what video game?  Play some Daytona USA?  Or some Rock Band?  Or some Counter-Strike?  Is it worth putting aside many hours on a game that may frustrate you more than anything?  Or am I playing games to get more insight on life or just to relax?
6. Watch TV?  What channel?  Or should I watch a movie instead?  Or should I not watch anything at all?
7. If I have to take a risk on something that has a chance of failure or not getting the returns I like (like learning a new skill, perhaps), how long should you stretch it out until you decide it's not worth it anymore and cut your losses?
8. You want a job, huh?  Well, where do you want to work out of your realistic options?  Or would you prefer not to work at all?  I'd like to think this has a HUGE impact on someone's life.
9. Obviously this is a big one too.  You want a girlfriend (or boyfriend)?  If so, then that's a whole new level of diplomacy there--that's war games we're talking about.
10. Should I update the blog?  What do I talk about?  How much effort do I put into it?  If not, should I read the game blogs and learn more about Sega and/or other game devs in general?  If I come to an engrossing yet long article, should I read some or all of it?  Or should I read random articles about crap just for the sake of learning trivial (but cool) things like this?

I'm fairly certain learning about rubber ducks in the ocean will benefit me some day.

Now I'm overthinking things because most of us wing these things every day.  "Oh, I'll do whatever is most urgent at the time--I've done fine on autopilot, etc."  But it makes sense to me especially with this grad school I'm at.  The new year begins as people flood into the building, many of whom have never lived in this town nor met each other in person.  It's an near-enclosed environment so you're basically working with the same 60+ people all the time.

Now you're one of those students.  You look around, try to meet whoever you can, but you know those people best whom are the closest to you, usually through coincidence (you're put in desks near each other or you're working on the same team).  So you form bonds based on these things you know and have to pick and choose based on their personalities (outgoing or shy, friendly or mean) & interests (what's his/her goal?  to learn a lot, to make great games, to make money, to show off to other people, etc.)  All the mean time you have to manage your life in and out of school (i.e. doing homework, paying the bills, learning about the town and how to live, etc.).

The Sims is kind of a joke compared to real life.  The Sims is a single-play sandbox game in that you can just piss around and do whatever you want--there's no end or "win condition" to the game.  But Civilization is multiplayer and it's about working around other people to progress one's set of goals.  Although there is no "victory" condition is real life, eventually the close group of people you worked with before will swap out as you're dealt another game with all new different people.  The game of Civilization never ends.  And you may not win but maybe, just maybe, you can "lose" the least.

EDIT: The reason I make this post, as stupid as it seems, is because there's a lot of things I've done that were poor decisions in the long run that I've made among colleagues of mine.  And Civ 5 reminds me of that.  So be careful how you manage your time & resources.

You know, while Civilization was interesting, I'm going to take a break from it for a while.  Two main reasons: the games can be TOO long (to go from 4000 BC to 2000 AD can take about 6-8 hours, even on the fastest settings) and at times the game can get stagnant (not expanding, not moving armies around, waiting as you move up the tech tree as money automatically flows in).  Therefore, I plan on moving to other games for the moment, finishing my duties (including Super Hyper Sprint) and actually putting my time to use.  Hopefully you will do the same.  The Daytona pics are overdue.  Later.

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